from the the-fourth-estate dept
There tends to be a great deal of talk these days about how the media influences public discourse. Most of these conversations tend towards the inane, with the dichotomy of our political affiliations directly deciding how we see the media's influence. One political side will complain that the media leans one way, while the other complains likewise. Everyone is working from a different set of "facts," causing the whole conversation to devolve into a sporting event, with each side rooting for its own team and proclaiming an underdog type of branding for their team against the horde of media others.
The reality is much more nefarious and stark. The larger media, once at least mildly interested in paying lip-service to being the "fourth estate" and holding government and public institutions accountable to the general public is today anything but. Instead, news media today is far more interested in sensationalism without substance and a plodding prostration before government over being an information source for the public. You can see this best in the media's mindframe when reporting on police activity. A wonderfully brutal recent example of this is one local Fox outlet's reporting on a police chase that should have ended when the suspect willingly stopped his vehicle and surrendered by lying on the ground. Indeed, that appears to be how the cameraman recording the event would have preferred the reporting on the story to have ended.
What you see is the suspect surrendering, exiting the vehicle, lying upon the ground as instructed, and then being pummeled for a brief moment before the camera quickly zooms out and renders the action indiscernible. Why the camera operator did so remains unanswered, but we know from other footage captured by an NBC affliate that the police spent the next half-a-minute or so beating the shit out of a man who was lying surrendered on the pavement. Were we to need to rely on the Fox footage to determine what had happened, we wouldn't have this full picture of the beating in our minds. Instead, we'd have a moment or two of the violence, which could quite possibly be excused and waived off by what would be a typical dismissal by the authorities.
Indeed, in that same local Fox affiliate's own reporting on the controversey, the public is informed:
"[Mass. State Police] will also review the apprehension of the suspect, to determine whether the level of force deployed during the arrest was appropriate," FOX25 has been told.And quoting the District Attorney's office:
"I think anyone who looks at the video is disturbed by it, but we don't jump to conclusions," Nashua Police said. "We need to find out what happened."The Fox affiliate's linked story, castrated by its own camera operator's perhaps subconcious choice to protect the authorities from damning footage, offers no further comment on the footage, the controversy, or the beating the man took at the hands of police. The news anchors mention that the public is calling the station about the beating the man took and say they are asking police for an explanation.
But that camera pulling back, small detail as it may seem, certainly feels emblematic of a very real problem. For a news organization covering a story about a police chase, there must be no greater need for camera footage than the culmination of that chase. It's the climax of the story. Yet, the moment the controversial actions by the police begin, the camera pans far back. I wouldn't mean to suggest that this reaction is one purposefully trying to keep the public uninformed, but it certainly is the reaction of someone not trained specifically to do the job of holding government and the authorities accountable.
That's the shift that's happened in media these past few decades. That's the bias about which you should be concerned. If the mass media no longer serves the public, it serves no purpose at all.